Senator Ike Ekweremadu
Christopher Isiguzo, Okon Bassey and Jude Okwe
Deputy Senate President and Chairman of Senate Committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has said the National Assembly has received about 56 requests for state creation from the various parts of the country.
This came as the National Assembly said the 43 items selected as priority in the public hearing on the amendment of the constitution did not foreclose other issues from being canvassed.
But Ekweremadu, who spoke at his Enugu residence, where he hosted some political leaders and traditional rulers from the various communities within the five local government areas of his senatorial zone, assured Nigerians that the National Assembly would not fail on the ongoing review.
He urged the people of the South-east region to allow their leaders to take decision on the issue.
Ekweremadu, who represents Enugu west senatorial district in the National Assembly had during the brief meeting informed the people of the forthcoming nationwide two-day simultaneous zonal public hearing slated for November 15 and 16.
The Deputy Senate President, who is the incumbent Speaker of the Economy Community of West African States (ECOWAS) parliament, said though a lot of issues such as devolution of powers, recognition of the six geo-political zones in the constitution, role of traditional rulers, local government, land use act, fiscal federalism, Nigeria Police, the National Youth Service Commission (NYSC) Act, amongst others, the issue of state creation remained one of the most serious and delicate matters hence, people must guide their statements on the issue.
The ECOWAS speaker had during the meeting, listed the provision of electricity, water, Information Communications Technology (ICT) facilities, roads, multi-purpose halls, among others as some of his constituency projects.
He also announced that the Federal Government had concluded plans to award the Nenwe/Oduma road project in Aninri local government area of the state at the cost of N12 billion.
On the issue of memorandum received during the constitution review, a member of the House of Representatives representing Etinan Federal Constituency in Akwa Ibom State, Hon. Dan Akpan, said the National Assembly would still be open to receiving memoranda from groups and individuals for a comprehensive review of the constitution.
Akpan, who spoke while fielding questions from journalists, lauded the people of Etinan Federal Constituency for their active participation at the public hearing on the amendment of the constitution.
The lawmaker reassured the people that their inputs would be adequately reflected in the final draft of the constitution and dismissed the people’s fear of their contributions being honoured.
“If we are not going to implement it then we would not have even invited people. We would just stay at the National Assembly and finish everything. The mere fact that we are doing this in the 360 Federal Constituencies at the same time, underscores the seriousness and importance we attach to this process.
“We are going to synchronise all the data collated and come out with a unified position. What we are doing is not just mere sending people out,” the lawmaker stressed.
Similarly, the former First Lady of the state, Obonganwan Imo Isemin, and the local government area chairman of Nsit Ubium, Mr. Essien Esama, had commended the House of Representatives for the initiative and expressed satisfaction with the exercise, hoping that the wishes of the people would be granted.
On his part, the Senator representing Uyo Senatorial district, which Etinan Federal Constituency is a component, Senator Ita Enang, hailed the excellent mobilisation and organisation of the constituency for the hearing.
“Let me commend Hon. Akpan for continuing in his ability to mobilise and organise the people of his constituency. I have gone round other constituencies and what I have seen in Etinan is overwhelming,” Enang said.
Meanwhile, Cross River State branch of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) has said it wants the ongoing constitutional review to expunge the clause of two-third majority of support for creation of new states and replace it with that of simple majority to make the agitation less cumbersome.
A legal practitioner, Mr. Sylvanus Odong, who disclosed this on behalf of the association, while contributing to the ongoing review of the 1999 Constitution in Obubra local government area of the state, said with simply majority, new states would easily be created.
According to him, applying the clause of two-third majority in the exercise may deny some geo-political zones the opportunity of having new states as there may be a gang up against one or two zones given the dichotomy in the country on religious and ethnic lines.
The NBA, which doubted the success of the current exercise considering the failure of similar exercises in the past, also described the creation of State Independent Electoral Commission as a pain on Nigeria that has made mockery of democracy in the country.
Facilitator of the public forum and member representing Obubra/Etung Federal Constituency, Hon. John Owan Enoh, said the House of Representatives was determined to come out with a constitution that would be the product of the people.
Eno described the lower chamber of the National Assembly as a rallying point for Nigerian noting that it was out to ensure that different classes of Nigerians make their contribution to the envisaged constitution hence the decision to take the public session to the grassroots in all the 360 constituencies in the country.
Chairman of the occasion and former Secretary to Cross River State Government, Chief Johnson Ebokpo, said it was expected that Nigerians having achieved independence/nationhood 52 years ago, should settle down and be proud to be Nigerians with proper constitution to guide them but that this was yet to be.
Ebokpor said there had been complaints that the 1999 Constitution was imposed on the people with some distortion but commended the efforts of the national assembly towards producing people oriented constitution and also commended Eno for always keeping in touch with his constituents.
Meanwhile, there were disagreements among the constituencies in the state on the creation of additional state for the South-east geo-political zone.
While Akamkpa/Biase constituency supported to creation for equity, justice and fairness, Obubra/Etung constituency opposed it reasoning that it could jeopardise their agitation for the creation of Ogoja state.
Many constituencies in the state opposed the amendment of Section 214 (1) of the 1999 Constitution to enable for the creation of state police in the country, saying the present federal police structure was good enough to handle the security situation in the country.
The representative of Akamkpa/Biase constituency, Hon. Daniel Asuquo, promised that all the resolutions of the people from the various constituencies would be properly presented without distortion.
Mr. Etim Inyang, a legal practitioner from Akamkpa/Biase Federal Constituency said that it was unfair for state governors to be called Chief Security Officers without any control.
“State governors are not in control of Commissioner of Police, yet they are called chief security officers; it is unfair and this should not be allowed to continue,” he said.
Also, contributors at the Akpabuyo/Bakassi/Calabar South Federal Constituency said that the present Federal structure of the Nigeria Police Force should remain.
The constituencies also voted for amendment to Section 197 (1) of the Constitution to abolish the state Independent Electoral Commission.
They said the present Independent National Electoral Commission should be strengthened to allow it conduct all elections in the country.
They called for the amendment of the Section 162 (1) of the constitution to abolish ‘State Joint Local Government Account’ and to allow Local Government Councils receive their allocations directly.
A former Minister for Heath, Dr. Emmanuel Nsa, said there was need for the amendment of Section 8 of the Constitution to remove ambiguities in the process of creation of states.
“Let us make creation of states easier by advocating a simple majority in the National Assembly so that those who have genuine cases for state creation should have it. All the geo-political zones should have equal number of states,” he said.
In a related development, the people of Cross River State have proposed one single term tenure for Presidents and Governors and the office of the President should be on merit rather than zoning.The People agreed that the Section 135 and 180 (2) be amended to create a single tenure of six years for the Office of President and Governor respectively.
They agreed that there should be specific provision in the constitution to take care of the interests of persons with disability.
A representative of the NBA for Akpabuyo/Bakassi/Calabar South federal constituency, Mr. Emma Ebika, advised the National Assembly to ensure the unity of Nigeria.
“NBA is of the opinion that every effort should be made to keep Nigeria one. Let the vote of the people count at any time. Whatever they say should reflect on the decision of the National Assembly,” he said.